We seem to be living in an era where everyone – from fresh graduates to those with some years of work experience – seems to want to earn an MBA degree! Often, people make this decision without really knowing how an MBA helps or how to get one.
Given all the information available on the internet, the biggest blunder most MBA aspirants commit is to start preparing for their MBA application without answering the fundamental question – ‘Why MBA?’
‘Why MBA’ may be one of the shortest questions in the professional world, but it is also one of the most important ones. For one, you will be making numerous sacrifices on your professional and personal fronts in order to get the MBA tag. It will be a life-changing experience for you; possibly the second most important decision in your life. (I think you can guess the first one.)
As a Chinese proverb says,
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!”
If you are toying with the idea of applying to an MBA program, you need to have a Pre-Application Plan before anything else. Yes, you may have done your bit of research on B-Schools or even taken your GMAT, but if you do not have a clear idea about WHY you want to pursue an MBA, it is going to be a tough (and perhaps unfulfilling!) journey.
2 Categories of MBA Aspirants:
There are basically two categories of MBA aspirants, especially in the Indian context:
1. Those who have just completed their graduation or are in their final year. These people typically take the CAT journey.
2. Those who have some years of work experience (typically two to six years) and whose objective is to reach their maximum potential in their professional life. This could entail either Career Progression or a Career Shift. These people typically follow the GMAT route.
2 Common Reasons to Do an MBA:
However much you try to be diplomatic and politically correct in your essays, recommendations and interviews, the truth (that even MBA Admissions Committees are aware of) is that most MBA aspirants want to earn an MBA degree because:
1. They want to earn more money
2. They hate their current job
biggest reason to do an mba, mba for more money, mba for more job satisfactionHowever, if these are the only two reasons you wish to do an MBA, you have a very limited and short-term perspective; because after a point, neither of these aspects will mean much to you.
For example, if you are a senior manager at a reputed IT company, and your job involves client interaction, business development, international travel, etc., you need not do an MBA at all as you will already be earning well and will have an envious job profile, too.
However, if you want to enhance your knowledge and perspective, or want a life-changing experience, you may still consider doing an MBA.
So, if you present these two reasons to the MBA Admission Committees you will definitely be considered as a misfit to their MBA program. There is such a thing as brutal honesty!
You need to have more value-based and well-thought-out reasons to pursue an MBA.
Here are the Seven Real Reasons to do MBA:
1. Career Progression
Typically, a professional begins his/her career with an operational role. Being fairly smart, hardworking and result-oriented, you get promotions and reach a decent position in the management.
You now have a good academic profile and good work experience. What happens next? After a few years, you start feeling stagnated. This could happen after three years or it may take 10 years for you to reach such a stage.
This is because in today’s performance-oriented professional world, most of the people around you also have the same qualities and credentials that you possess. At this point, it is crucial for you to ask what unique traits you have that will differentiate you from the herd.
The answer is: an MBA degree. Actually, not just any MBA degree but an MBA degree from a premier business school. An MBA from a top B-School will help you make a quick transition from a mid-level role to a senior management position, where you will have the opportunity to take strategic decisions.
If you browse through the job descriptions of senior positions across industries, you can see that MBA is the preferred degree, though perhaps not mandatory. Consulting is one profession where an MBA is mandatory to grow to an Associate or higher level.
The lack of an MBA degree may not be a show-stopper but it will be a huge reason for career stagnation.
2. Career Shift
What are the chances that with your current education, role and experience, you can actually switch to any other role or industry? Very little!
Consider this situation – you have been in IT for the past five years, but with time, you realize that your true calling is marketing. What steps can you take to make a switch?
You can take up small marketing projects over the weekends – Read about marketing on the internet and make changes to your resume – Take an online marketing course.
Even if you manage to get past the interview for a marketing role, you would still be joining at an entry level. Your great IT experience will not help you much to get a senior level role in marketing.
It is here that an MBA program can help. In fact, one of the most important reasons why professionals choose to do an MBA is to change career tracks smoothly.
An MBA from a top business school may set you back by about INR50 lakhs for a 10 month course. The figure may be even higher depending on the location of your school and the duration of the program.
This works out to about 1.2 lakhs per week. In India, you may end up spending 20 lakhs for a similar MBA program. Imagine spending such a huge sum of money just to gain knowledge!
Wouldn’t it be prudent to quit your job for a year and browse the internet to get all the knowledge in the world?
However, the truth is that the knowledge that will help you progress in your career will not be found only in books or on the internet. The interaction and intellectual debates that you will have with your professors and peers at a B-School will be extremely enriching.
Secondly, the pedagogical methods employed in top schools are very innovative and effective – these include case studies, presentations, projects, research papers, etc. If you are joining a typical two-year MBA program, in the first year you will have the core curriculum consisting of marketing, accounting, finance, statistics, economics, management, organization behaviour, etc.
These subjects lay the foundation of your understanding of business. To be a future CEO, you need to have a 360 degree view of how to run a company and manage people. The language of business is the language of money.
Apart from the core subjects, B-Schools offer a plethora of electives, usually in the second year, depending on the stream you want to specialize in. It is at this point that you need to have a very good idea of your career path so that you can make full use of your MBA program.
What is networking?
Knowing people? Getting contacts?
Yes, knowing people is a big part of networking, but surely it is not just that!
Even with all the social media hype, how many people from your college are you in touch with? 20? 50? At the most, 100! Even at work, how many people do you really know? Your immediate superiors, your team, and the people you meet at the cafeteria.
And what happens once you quit your current job and meet your ex-colleague after two years in a mall? You may even find it hard to remember his/her name! So, according to this definition of networking, it means you are ready to spend 1 crore just to know 100 more people!
Nothing could be further from the truth.
So, what is networking all about? Networking at business schools means that you will be carrying the same tag as thousands of alumni.
You may or may not have studied together, but if a Harvard alumnus receives an email or a job request from another Harvard alumnus, or is interviewing a candidate who went to the same school, there will be an immediate bonding between them, something like an Old Boys Association!
We all want to be identified as part of a group of high achievers. Doing an MBA from a reputed B-School gives you a great opportunity to network with smart, talented people who will hold top strategic positions in major companies or will be great business leaders someday.
5. Brand Equity
An MBA degree is certainly a feather in your cap. But an MBA from a top B-School is a more brightly colored feather! You can feel this difference within India itself. All things being equal, there is a big difference if you do an MBA from a lesser known B-School in your region and if you graduate from a top school such as ISB.
As most recruiters are aware of how difficult it is to get into a top B-School, an MBA degree from such a school holds a lot of brand value.
Employers already know that you have cleared the first level of acid tests: high GPA, high GMAT score, essays, recommendations, the tough interview itself and of course, a very rigorous MBA program.
Just like gold, an MBA from a reputed B-School gives you a certified hallmark that you are competent to become a successful leader in the near future. As the job of assessing a candidate is already done by the MBA Admissions Committee, recruiters are well-assured of your potential.
What do you really learn at a B-School?
Most importantly, the confidence to be somebody who matters, in your professional life.
A reputed B-School program gives you the opportunity to think in the direction you want to. Whatever goals you may have had before joining an MBA program, once you join, you may realize that your true calling lies elsewhere.
The entire classroom experience, interaction with faculty and peers, student activities, case studies, all these may radically change your perspective, both personally and professionally. Many MBA students discover a new person in themselves once they graduate from business school.
The irony of life is that when you were a student, you had no responsibilities, but you also lacked the right perspective. Once you started working, gradually, you learned who you are, what your potential is, but at this stage you are so burdened with responsibilities that you don’t get the chance to follow your passion.
An MBA gives you a second chance in life to do what you always wanted to do. It gives you the independence of a student’s life as well as the perspective of working for many years.
7. Change of Geography
There must have been instances when you wanted to move to Australia or Canada or any other foreign country to work there. In your current role, you may be able to move to an international market as a C++ coder but definitely not as a project manager.
An MBA, say from Stanford or INSEAD can help you understand the foreign market well, increase your international network, learn about the requirements for an international career and get exposure to a totally different culture and way of life.
Do you identify with some of these reasons why you should do an MBA? At the end of the day, it’s all about your passion, your career and your long-term goals. Before you even think of applying anywhere, analyze why exactly you wish to pursue an MBA and articulate it well in your essays and interviews.